Chris Whitney on Jahidi White, Kwame and Gil
He might not have earned Bullets Legend status like Jahidi White or Big Gheorghe, but Chris Whitney put together a fairly remarkable basketball career in this town. He played in both the Cap Centre and the Verizon Center, as both a Bullet and a Wizard. If I'm not mistaken, he's the only player to have shared a D.C. backcourt with Rod Strickland, Gilbert Arenas and Michael Jordan. ("MJ played with me," he joked the other day."Let's get that straight now, MJ played with me.")
When the team didn't have anyone else to handle the ball, he played for an extended period on two sprained ankles; "Whit's a tough customer, a survivor," said Darrell Walker, one of the 10 coaches Whitney played for in D.C. "Guys like that, they play hurt, they play hard and they play the game the way it's supposed to be played. He respects the game, and I have a lot of respect for Whit."
He left D.C. after seven seasons, departing as the franchise's all-time leader in three-pointers made and attempted. And then, after brief stints in Denver and Orlando, he returned to D.C., becoming the the final ex-Bullet to wear a Wizards jersey and retiring to Fort Washington.
Whitney has done occasional spots for Comcast SportsNet since he retired, although he didn't so much as pick up a basketball until this past March, when he started playing again. He said he has no desire to become a coach--"See this, see that? No gray," he said, pointing to his hairline--but he said he'd like to get into player personnel, and that "if I did anything as far as basketball, I would be an asset to somebody." I caught up with Whitney the other day and asked a few questions about his D.C. career.
Why didn't you pick up a basketball until March?
Just burned out. Just burned out on the game. I was getting into other business ventures that were going through my head, and I just didn't want to play any more. I just didn't touch a ball. I mean, I would watch it, but it wouldn't be, 'Oh, somebody's playing tonight, let me watch this game. If it came on, I would watch it.
What kind of business ventures?
Myself and Jahidi White, we teamed up with a former ally of ours and we have a staffing company, Staffing Across America. We have another one we're trying to start up, Staffing Around the World, trying to take it global. We're flying a group of guys over to England next week to hopefully solidify a deal there to do armored vehicles. Crazy, right?
So you were the last remaining Bullet?
Myself and Juwan [Howard] were the [last] holdovers from the Bullets to the Wizards. There were a few, Webb and a few of us, but I was the last one that played for the Bullets to play for the Wizards. Once they traded Juwan, I was the last one.
What did you think about the change?
The name? The reasoning for doing it, I agreed with it--the violence, the bullets, the guns. So I agreed with it then, and then name actually grew on me, the Washington Wizards. It was kind of funny--Hey, you play for the Bullets? 'Nah, we're the Wizards now.' It kind of grew on me.
What about changing the colors?
Blue's my favorite color. It was fine. I never really worried about the colors. The jerseys that they used, the material that they used [for the Bullets jerseys], it was heavy. We complained about those a little bit. But it was whatever. We were ushering in some big things--a name change, different jerseys, a new arena--so it was fine.
Do you look back at yourself as a Wizard or a Bullet?
A Wizard, a Wizard. I think I was only a Bullet for two years.
Were you surprised things didn't work here with Jordan?
On the court? I mean, coming back, he's much, much older, he can't do the things he used to do. I know for a fact that when we went into an arena, teams came to play. Just because it was him, they gave a heck of an effort. And that made us pick up our game. That's one thing about playing with Michael, when you're on the court with him, he makes you feel like you're just as good as anybody, his aura just rubs off on everybody. It was a lot of fun.
Any good Jahidi White stories?
Kwame Brown's rookie year, we were in Houston practicing. Kwame made a move and Jahidi went to block the shot, and they both just fell, and Jahidi fell on Kwame's back. I mean, he was like a pretzel. And [Jahidi] just looked down at him and told him, GET UP! YOU'RE NOT HURT! And I was like, 'You may have fractured his vertebrae or something.' He told him, GET UP, YOU AIN'T HURT. Ohhhh-kay.
What'd you think about Gilbert?
Awesome. I mean, the first time I played against him, we were in training camp, and I remember calling friends and saying, 'This guy is everything you could want in a guard.' Size, strength, and it's very seldom you find a guard that's [also] quick and fast; he has both. I've seen him a couple times during the summer, he said his knee's better, and hopefully he'll have a good, productive season.
What about his reputation for quirkiness, did you see that?
I really didn't see it. I think when he got here he was very, very young. You know, he bought some automobile, it wasn't a real car; that's the only thing I saw that was a little crazy. It was like a three-wheeled car-slash-motorcycle type thing. I remember we were downtown, and it broke down or something happened to it, and he just left it. But I didn't see any quirky things.
That's kind of quirky.
Or it could be crazy. But he was a joy to watch, and actually I think he was a good teammate. Our lockers were really close to each other, and he was a good teammate.
What about Kwame?
Oh, that was my young fella. Kwame was my young fella. I think he got an unfair tag on him that he was soft and things like that. If you're coming from high school, you think you're in shape, you think you're playing hard. But when you get to the NBA, you're not in shape, and you're not playing hard. Some people can take that criticism and then use it as motivation and build on it, but some people couldn't, and it took him a little time to grasp that.
And Juwan? What did you think of the booing?
Now that right there was very unfair. I mean, a few months ago, when he was a free agent, before he signed, it was, 'Bring Juwan Back!' They were gonna burn the city down if Juwan leaves. Then you trade Webb, you bring Juwan back, you give him his money. Well, somebody else had already given him that money....At 20 years old he was an all-star, averaging 20 and 10, so you couldn't argue with it. But I think it was unfair. Because I know what type of person he is. It hurt him. It bothered him. But I know he worked hard, every day. He brought it, every day.
Who was the funniest teammate you ever had?
Probably Laron Profit. He would just say anything. He was crazy. Good guy, great guy, but crazy. He had this thing he would always do, I think the referee's name was Hugh Evans. [Profit] would make a move [in practice], and if you bumped him, he would just yell out 'Oh come on Hugh! You've got to call that!"
And we would sit there like, 'Who is Hugh? Who are you talking about?' Until he told us--'Hugh, the referee!'-- and it became that everything we did in practice, we was like, 'Come on, Hugh!' Next thing you know, Rip Hamilton, everyone, walking around, like 'Come on, Hugh!" If anybody did everything, it was Hugh's fault.
Posted by: sitruc | June 29, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse
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